Australia’s 35 largest law firms took in a combined total of more than $6 billion during the 2011-12 fiscal year, according to a Wednesday report by Australian business periodical Business Review Weekly.
The revenue rankings come on the heels of a year that has seen four of the country’s “Big Six” firms pursue major strategic initiatives with overseas rivals. In the latest of those moves, partners at Australia’s Freehills and London-based Herbert Smith approved in June a merger that will create a 2,800-lawyer firm under the name Herbert Smith Freehills that is set to go live as of October 1.
Am Law Daily sibling publication The Asian Lawyer asked earlier this year whether Am Law 100 firms would soon begin following their British counterparts Down Under in search of merger and alliance partners with leading local shops. Hogan Lovells, K&L Gates, Mayer Brown, and White & Case are several firms thought to be interested in establishing a presence in the country, according to a recent report by U.K. publication Legal Week.
Freehills, which collected $590.3 million, took in the most gross revenue among Australian firms during the fiscal year that ended June 30, according to BRW. The 730-lawyer firm outpaced by a significant margin runner-up Clayton Utz, which the BRW reports took in roughly $476 million. (All figures have been converted from Australian to U.S. dollars using Thursday’s exchange rate.)
Clayton Utz and Minter Ellison are the two Big Six firms that remain independent amid the rush by rivals to forge alliances and mergers with international suitors, though neither of the two has ruled out tying up with a foreign firm. Minter Ellison, which placed fifth on BRW‘s gross revenue rankings, took in $438.3 million during the most recent fiscal year.
Allens—a 635-lawyer firm known as Allens Arthur Robinson until it sidestepped a merger and instead entered into an exclusive alliance with Magic Circle firm Linklaters in May—ranked third on BRW‘s list with an estimated $460 million in gross revenues for 2011-12.
Placing fourth, with $443 million in gross revenue is King & Wood Mallesons, the Pacific Rim legal giant formed via the combination of leading Chinese domestic firm King & Wood and top Aussie shop Mallesons Stephen Jaques. (The merger—which went live as of May 1 and which The Asian Lawyer reported last year is likely to be one of the few in the near future involving a major Chinese firm—was structured differently than Freehills’s tie-up with Herbert Smith, according to Aussie publication The New Lawyer.)
Sixth place on BRW‘s list goes to Ashurst Australia, a 581-lawyer firm formed late last year when London-based Ashurst combined its Asian operations with Aussie firm Blake Dawson. Both firms intend to move forward with a full global merger by 2014, although Ashurst has an escape clause built into the deal should a U.S.–based suitor emerge before then, according to Legal Week.
Rounding out the top 10 on BRW‘s gross revenue rankings: Corrs Chambers Westgarth ($276.9 million), Norton Rose Australia ($261.2 million), Slater & Gordon ($226.7 million), and Gadens Lawyers ($216.7 million). (The American Lawyer wrote extensively about Slater & Gordon, the world’s first law firm to go public in 2007, in a January 2009 feature story. Earlier this year, Slater & Gordon bought British personal injury firm Russell Jones & Walker in an $85 million deal, according to our previous reports.)
Others Aussie shops appearing on the BRW list include Gilbert + Tobin ($162 million), HWL Ebsworth Lawyers ($146.3 million), Maddocks ($118.6 million), Middletons ($117 million), Sparke Helmore Lawyers ($109.4 million), Henry Davis York ($101.9 million), and McCullough Robertson ($100.7 million). See BRW for the complete list.